How to Choose the Right Heating and Cooling College near Fairbanks Alaska
Now that you have made a decision on a career as a heating and cooling specialist, the next step is to locate an HVAC trade school near Fairbanks AK. But with so many to pick from, how do you pick the ideal one to get the training that you require? A number of future students will make their selection based solely on the price of tuition or how near the school is to their home. Although these are important concerns, they are not the only ones to take into account. Just some of the other details that you need to investigate are the graduation rates of the HVAC schools, their reputations, and if they are accredited by professional trade organizations. These and additional criteria will be addressed in more detail later within this article. But before we discuss how to choose an HVAC training program, let's look at what a heating and cooling contractor does to become a licensed qualified tradesman.
Becoming an HVAC Tech
HVAC is an acronym that is extensively used in the industry that stands for "Heating, Ventilation and Air Conditioning". HVAC technicians specialize in the installation, maintenance and repair of air conditioners, furnaces, boilers, hot water heaters and heating systems. As professional tradesmen, they are generally mandated to be licensed, though each state and local municipality has its own requirements. Obtaining professional certification is not mandatory, but a voluntary way for Fairbanks AK HVAC techs to demonstrate that they are exceptionally proficient and experienced in their area of expertise. There are a number of respected certifications within the field that are offered. Here are a few of the significant ones.
- North American Technician Excellence (NATE). NATE is a nationally acknowledged certification for HVAC technicians. The certification is earned by passing a competency exam and can be earned in one or more specialties.
- HVAC Excellence. This certification makes available both a professional and a master specialist credential. Two years of field experience as well as passing a comprehensive exam are needed for the professional level certification. Master specialists must have 3 years of experience as well as a passing score on the professional level examination. As with NATE, certifications are provided in various specialties.
- EPA Section 608. This certification is mandatory for specialists that handle refrigerants. There are three types of certification obtainable, one for small appliances, and the other two for low and high pressure refrigerants.
Since licensing might be required in your area, and you may also wish to earn certification, it's important that you pick an HVAC trade school that will prepare you for both. And since you will probably be dealing with refrigerants, make certain that the program you decide on prepares you for passing the EPA Section 608 exams.
HVAC Degree and Certificate Schools
There are a variety of options available for HVAC instruction in a trade or technical school. You can attain a certificate, an Associate Degree, or a Bachelor's Degree. Obtaining a certificate will take the lesser amount of time, usually achieved in as little as 6 months, although some programs are longer. A certificate will train you for the majority of HVAC positions, particularly if you are licensed and have certification appropriate to the position. The degree training programs can provide a competitive advantage in the job market and will furnish more comprehensive training than the certificate programs. Below is a short description of each credential offered near Fairbanks AK.
- Certificate. Generally requiring a high school diploma, certificate programs are very popular among entry level commercial or residential HVAC technicians. They provide a strong foundation of skills for job opportunities within the trade.
- Associate Degree. The Associate Degree in HVAC program provides a more detailed understanding of heating and cooling systems than the certificate program. Normally taking 2 years to finish, many degrees include an internship or work-study program.
- Bachelor's Degree. The Bachelor's Degree in HVAC is tailored more towards a career in management as well as business ownership. Some programs require an Associate Degree, while others are a standard four year program. In addition to mastering how to service and maintain heating and cooling systems, you will also study how to design them.
Choosing the right credential program will be based on what your long term career aspirations are, together with the time and money that you have to invest. One possibility is to begin with a certificate or perhaps an Associate Degree program, and after acquiring some experience in the field in Fairbanks AK, eventually going back to earn a Bachelor's Degree. If this is your approach, make sure to ask the HVAC technician school you are considering about how their returning student program works.
HVAC Online Training
Choosing an HVAC school online is one approach to attaining your education and earning a certificate or degree. Most schools will call for some attendance on campus to take part in hands on training. Some also offer internship or work-study programs in addition to or in place of practical lab work. But since the balance of the classes may be attended via the internet, this approach may be a more practical solution for some Fairbanks AK students that are short on time. And many online degree programs are less expensive than other traditional choices. Even commuting expenses from Fairbanks and study materials can be minimized, helping to make schooling more budget-friendly. And a large number of online schools are fully accredited (more on this later). So if your work or family responsibilities have left you with little time to attend classes, perhaps an HVAC online training program will make it more convenient to fit school into your hectic lifestyle.
Questions to Ask HVAC Training Programs
As soon as you have selected the type of degree or certificate that you desire to acquire, either on campus or online, you can begin to decrease your list of schools. As you are no doubt aware, there are numerous HVAC vocational schools in the Fairbanks AK area and all over the USA to choose from. That's why it is very important to have a checklist of important qualifications when making school evaluations. As formerly mentioned in our opening paragraph, tuition and location will undoubtedly be the initial two factors you will take into consideration. Following are several additional ones that you should research before enrolling in your school of choice.
Accreditation. A large number of HVAC trade schools in the Fairbanks AK area have acquired either a regional or a national accreditation. They may attain Institutional Accreditation, which involves the school's programs as a whole, or Programmatic Accreditation, which relates to a specific program, such as HVAC technology. Verify that the program and school are accredited by a U.S. Department of Education approved accrediting agency, which includes the Accreditation Board for Engineering and Technology. In addition to helping ensure that you obtain a quality education, it can help in securing financial assistance or student loans, which are in many cases not available for non-accredited schools. Furthermore, many states mandate that the HVAC training course be accredited in order to qualify for licensing.
High Completion Rates. Ask the Heating and Air Conditioning schools you are considering what their completion rates are. The completion rate is the portion or percentage of students who enroll in and complete the course. A low completion rate might signify that students were unhappy with the course and quit. It may also suggest that the teachers were not competent to instruct the students. It's similarly important that the schools have higher job placement rates. Older and/or more reputable schools may have a more extensive directory of alumni, which can mean more contacts for the school to employ for their apprenticeship and job placement programs. A high job placement rate can not only confirm that the school has an excellent reputation within the field, but also that it has the network of Fairbanks AK HVAC employers to assist students secure apprenticeships or employment.
Apprenticeship Programs. Most HVAC trade programs are taught along with an apprenticeship or an internship program. Those participating trade and technical programs will help place you in an apprenticeship program within their network of HVAC contractors or labor unions. Check if the schools you are considering have referring partnerships with local Fairbanks AK HVAC professionals. An apprenticeship not only provides a valuable experience by furnishing hands-on training, but it also furnishes employment opportunities and helps to form relationships in the area HVAC professional community.
Modern Facilities. Make sure that the school facilities and the equipment that you will be trained on are up-to-date and what you will be using on the job. If you are currently in an internship or an apprenticeship, check with the HVAC specialist you are working with regarding what you should be looking for. Otherwise, ask a local Fairbanks AK HVAC contractor if they can provide some pointers. Additionally bear in mind that unless you are willing to move, the school needs to be within commuting distance of your Fairbanks AK home. Remember that if you decide to attend an out-of-state school, in addition to relocation costs there might be higher tuition charges compared to in-state residents.
Smaller Classes. It's desirable that you receive as much personalized training as possible, which can be difficult in larger classes. Ask if you can monitor some of the classes so that you can see how big they are and experience the interaction between instructors and students. Talk to a few of the students and get their feedback concerning class sizes and instruction. Finally, speak to a few of the teachers and learn what their level of experience is and what certifications or degrees they hold.
Flexible Scheduling. Make sure that the class schedules for the schools you are evaluating are flexible enough to fulfill your needs. If you can only attend classes at night or on weekends near Fairbanks AK, check that the programs you are looking at provide those choices. If you can only attend on a part-time basis, be sure that the school you select allows part-time enrollment. Finally, check out what the policy is to make-up classes should you miss any because of work, sickness or family responsibilities.
Earn Your Heating and Cooling Degree and Certification
Selecting the right HVAC school course is a critical first step toward a fulfilling career in the heating and air conditioning industry. As we have addressed in this article, you should choose a Heating and Cooling training program and a certificate or degree program that are both accredited and have outstanding reputations within the HVAC field. Other factors to look for are sufficient practical training and state-of-the-art facilities. You need to visit each of the schools personally that you are most interested in to inspect the campus and talk with both the faculty and current students. Attempt to get a feel for the quality of the instruction and the interaction between them. In addition, inquire about scheduling choices and if night or weekend classes are available if needed. And remember to ask about financial aid and student loan options as well. If you ask the proper questions as we have laid out in our checklist for evaluating schools, you'll be able to filter your options so that you can make an educated decision. With the appropriate training, hard work and commitment, you can eventually become a licensed HVAC professional in Fairbanks AK.